Chapter

Discourse, Truth, and Friendship

John Finnis

in Reason in Action

Published in print April 2011 | ISBN: 9780199580057
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191729379 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199580057.003.0003
Discourse, Truth, and Friendship

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This chapter presents an examination of Habermas's ‘Discourse Ethics’, originally read in his presence in 1998. The chapter proceeds with a close reflection on Plato's Gorgias, which demonstrates that Habermas's ‘discourse ethics’ is unreasonable in proposing the criterion of ‘acceptability from the perspective of every other person's understanding of himself and the world’. Plato's Socrates has already shown that this is self-refuting. Socrates also shows the basis for human equality and justice: recognition that intrinsic human goods such as knowledge and friendship are realizable in others' lives as much as in my own. The Socratic/Platonic transformation of the Sophistic opposition between nature and law into an understanding of natural law is traced out, along with the advance from first principles to exceptionless moral norms excluding the killing of the innocent. The distinction between ethics and morality is shown to be as ungrounded and misleading as Rawls's ‘public reason’.

Keywords: Habermas; discourse ethics; Gorgias; natural law; Plato; Socrates; Rawls; ethics and morality; public reason; human equality

Chapter.  10858 words. 

Subjects: Jurisprudence and Philosophy of Law

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